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City Council to look at transportation options to curb drinking, driving

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Next week the Austin City Council will look at more ways people who have drinking and driving can get home safely. Councilmember Chris Riley is sponsoring three resolutions all related to the issue.

"Drinking is a big part of that culture and unfortunately we end up where people are getting in their cars and drinking and driving," said Riley. It's a problem Riley says his office hears about quite often.

Riley says taxi service delivery in Austin falls far short of meeting demands particularly between the peak hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. when taxi demand is at its highest. He wants customers in Austin to expect that 90 percent of requests for service result in pickups within 15 minutes.

"We're taking a good look at taxi cab service. Our franchises are up for renewal next August so we're having a discussion with all our stakeholders to see what we can do to up our game when it comes to taxi service," Riley explained.

Another resolution explores other ride sharing services like Uber or Lyft. Those types of companies offering similar services can't operate under the current city code. "It's not simple at all. We have elaborate regulations built up to protect the consumer and we have the same concerns when it comes to alternative transportation," explained Riley. If approved the resolution instructs the city manager to hold a stakeholder meeting to ultimately make recommendations which could lead to a pilot program.

The resolutions reflect the findings of a new survey released by ATX Safer Streets. Sara LeVine started the group six weeks ago. She surveyed people on their drinking habits and how they get to and from bars.

"We're trying to shift the conversation from what to do with drunk drivers to get people to leave their cars at home and use other transportation options," said Levine.

About half of the people surveyed go out and drink a couple times each week. The majority of people say they drive their cars to the bar. Sixty-six percent of people admit to driving intoxicated because they felt like they didn't have another way home.

When it comes to public transportation 94 percent say they would use it if it was available and ran later. As for other options like ride share services 81 percent say they would use companies like Uber or Lyft.

Levine believes the resolutions are a start and will eventually help keep Austin streets safer, "We're a diverse city and we need diverse options for getting home," she said.

The city of Austin has a list of ways people can get home safely. There are 3,000 parking spaces on streets downtown from IH-35 to Lamar and Lady Bird Lake to 10th street where people can leave their cars parked without fear of being towed. The Austin Transportation Department doesn't tow cars. If you forget to hit "next day" on the parking meters and you get a ticket the transportation department will waive the ticket if you made the responsible decision not to drive.

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